At the 28th Kolkata International Film festival, Sudhir Mishra presented his speech at the Satyajit Ray Memorial Lecture on Understanding Cinema in the Changing Time of OTT
Last Updated: 05.32 PM, Dec 20, 2022
Filmmaker Sudhir Mishra said that if he supported Argentina in the world Cup Final, he would do that for Maradona and his association with Fidel Castro – former president of Cuba, and Che Guevara’s tattoo on his arm. “I always say that Che Guevara for me is what Shammi Kapoor is to many people,” he quipped. At the 28th Kolkata International Film festival, Sudhir Mishra presented his speech at the Satyajit Ray Memorial Lecture on Understanding Cinema in the Changing Time of OTT. Later, in an exclusive chat with OTTplay, he talked about censorship, The Kashmir Files, and the ongoing debate over Besharam Rang from Shah Rukh Khan-Deepika Padukone’s upcoming film, Pathaan. Read on…
With the self-regulatory body for OTT players in India, do you think censorship may come one day for digital content?
Can I turn it around? I see it as a filmmaker. And you cannot control a filmmaker. It is the job of a filmmaker not to get controlled. Also, it is impossible to control the web. You can only control the revenue scheme – that I will not be funded by the big brothers. That’s all. Somebody may try it but it is impossible. People will find ways and strategies.
(After a pause) Some censorship may come. And I don’t want to talk about it because as a senior filmmaker I don’t want to scare the younger lot. Make the films. If I say I am scared then a lot of unfortunate young people who think I am someone will be demoralised. I am saying something will be censored and we will get away with some more. Having a constant discussion is important and this is not the end of the world.
In the time of social media, how, as a filmmaker, do you differentiate between jingoism and patriotism?
I don’t make jingoistic films. There was a possibility in what I have done in the last work Tanaav. There was a possibility of taking a jingoistic way. I am very happy that most people thought the series to be able to see the Kashmiris in a complex way. It's about their love, hate, and families. I only follow the Dharma of storytelling. You will understand complex storytelling. This will allow you not to demean anybody. You don’t have to show someone stupid and archaic and some other people holy. Jingoism has its followers and there always have been jingoistic films – Border for instance. While making Tanaav, I did not paint someone villainous. I know I am fishing in troubled water. But I deliberately try to address an audience.
What is your opinion about The Kashmir Files after Israeli filmmaker Navel Lapid termed it a propaganda film?
The Israeli filmmaker Navel Lapid has expressed his views on The Kashmir Files. That’s his view. What can I say about it? He is entitled to his views.
If I am the audience I can say anything because I paid to watch the film. As a journalist, you can say something. But if I were a filmmaker I will counter it with another film. My response should be through my work. I see so many people taking to Twitter to say a lot of things, But when I see their films, they don’t get reflected. That’s how you reach more people and build a counter-narrative, no? Vis-à-vis The Kashmir Files, the fault is ours that we are not offering any counter-narrative. We did not make a film in so many years and now we are upset that Vivek did. It's very easy to be upset. You can post that you are not happy about Vivek Agnihotri’s film and be happy. But what do we achieve? He has made a hit film. And you could not. I am saying Vivek has a right to make what he made. I may or may not like it. How can I say Vivek has no right to make a film? What does a liberal say? Vivek made a propaganda film. Then you make your film. His audience is not listening to you. Who are you talking to? Are you mumbling to yourself? It's not doing anything else. The bottom line is the counter to a film must be a better film. If I take away the rights from Vivek Agnihotri to make a film, then I am inviting censorship. That’s fascism to counter fascism.
Do you think in today’s India, the viewers have become more polarised and politicised, so much so that controversies are brewed over the colour of the costume of Deepika Padukone in Pathaan’s film Besharam Rang?
I don’t think they became more polarised but I think they are being allowed to speak. The film industry is one of the easiest targets. Media cover it widely. And hence it is the easiest place to attack. Attacking a political movement is difficult because you will face a counterattack. You can practically say anything to the film industry and they will be afraid of theatres being stoned and films being taken down. They are not activists and many of them are popular actors.
I think too much attention is being given to these things. I think it is the responsibility of the state to protect the films that are being released. If somebody doesn’t like the colour what can be done? There are only these many colours. It is nonsense to discuss the colour of a heroine’s dress. My problem is why are you paying so much attention?
Do you think with so many OTT platforms, there is a saturation of content?
There is too much content. What is finite? The time. And what are we asking? What this watch that. This is becoming a circle. We must be careful about what we are making. We should make things that have value.